Tonawanda News

Features

March 4, 2013

Crab chronicles

Tonawanda News — When I was very young I had both fiddler crabs and hermit crabs. The fiddler crabs lived in a terrarium that also housed red-bellied newts and the hermit crabs lived in an aquarium that was completely

terrestrial.

When I was in fifth grade I decided to be the first person in the world to breed fiddler crabs in captivity. I acquired a fresh batch of crabs from the local fish shop. I wanted crabs that had freshly arrived, as they live in more brackish conditions rather than freshwater. Brackish water is saltier then fresh water but not as salty as salt water. Examples of their environment are inter-tidal zones, like mangroves and some lagoons. I wanted them to be fresh because most pet stores, even fish specialty stores, keep them in fresh water rather than brackish water.

My home setup was a 30-gallon, long tank with sandy banks and three areas of water. There was the full spectrum: saltwater, brackish water and fresh water pools. In the saltwater was live algae and seaweed. I released them into their new “crabitat” and they explored all three pools and eventually burrowed themselves in for the night. I fed them and loved them for several months and eventually they all died.

Hermit crabs, for me, were quite the different story. I acquired a couple of them, gave them extra shells, a sandy substrate, not much thought and they lasted for years. They are quite hardy little animals. One of the coolest attributes is their ability to forage. In the wild they eat a wide range of food items and being able to feed them a variety was fun.

Peanut butter, sunflower seeds and exotic fruits were generally favored. Store-bought hermit crab pellets never seemed to be eaten. Hermit crabs are omnivores, eating vegetables, fruits and protein. Hermit crabs are also cannibalistic, so offering them shrimp or crab legs is not out of the question. Cuttlebones that are available for small parrots are also suitable for hermit crabs. Nuts, applesauce, raisins, trail mix, honey, cooked egg, cereal, crackers, washed grass and popcorn are some of the more popular food items on the crab menu.

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